American Glamour and the Evolution of Modern Architecture

Overview

The sleek lines and gleaming facades of the architecture of the late 1940s and 1950s reflect a culture fascinated by the promise of the Jet Age. Buildings like Eero Saarinen’s TWA Terminal at JFK Airport and Philip Johnson’s Four Seasons Restaurant retain a thrilling allure, seeming to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. In this work, distinguished architectural historian Alice Friedman draws on a vast range of sources to argue that the aesthetics of mid-century modern architecture reflect an ...

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Overview

The sleek lines and gleaming facades of the architecture of the late 1940s and 1950s reflect a culture fascinated by the promise of the Jet Age. Buildings like Eero Saarinen’s TWA Terminal at JFK Airport and Philip Johnson’s Four Seasons Restaurant retain a thrilling allure, seeming to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. In this work, distinguished architectural historian Alice Friedman draws on a vast range of sources to argue that the aesthetics of mid-century modern architecture reflect an increasing fascination with “glamour,” a term widely used in those years to characterize objects, people, and experiences as luxurious, expressive, and even magical.

Featuring assessments of architectural examples ranging from Mies van der Rohe’s monolithic Seagram Building to Elvis Presley’s sprawling Graceland estate, as well as vintage photographs, advertisements, and posters, this book argues that new audiences and client groups with tastes rooted in popular entertainment made their presence felt in the cultural marketplace during the postwar period. The author suggests that American and European architecture and design increasingly reflected the values of a burgeoning consumer society, including a fundamental confidence in the power of material objects to transform the identity and status of those who owned them.

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Editorial Reviews

The Jewish Exponent

“Yale has produced a volume … that''s so spectacular-looking, it may even exceed the publishing house''s usual high production standards. …a stunning book.”
-Robert Leiter, The Jewish Exponent

— Robert Leiter

CHOICE

"Fully informed, richly illustrated, and presented in scholarly fashion, it likely will be a lasting epochal work for decades."—P. Kaufman, CHOICE

— P. Kaufman

Antiques

"Friedman engages in a lively investigation of her subject."—Barrymore Laurence Scherer, Antiques

— Barrymore Laurence Scherer

Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians
“[O]ne of the most intriguing and compelling studies to date on modern architecture.”—Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians
CHOICE - P. Kaufman
"Fully informed, richly illustrated, and presented in scholarly fashion, it likely will be a lasting epochal work for decades. Essential."—P. Kaufman, CHOICE
The Jewish Exponent - Robert Leiter
“Yale has produced a volume … that's so spectacular-looking, it may even exceed the publishing house's usual high production standards. . . . A stunning book.”—Robert Leiter, The Jewish Exponent

Antiques - Barrymore Laurence Scherer
"Friedman engages in a lively investigation of her subject."—Barrymore Laurence Scherer, Antiques
Library Journal
Through the dual lenses of architectural and social history, this learned study probes the aesthetics of revolutionary postwar building designs stoked by mass media, advertising, consumerism, and society's confidence in the power of institutions to improve lives. Friedman (American art, Wellesley Coll.) analyzes the midcentury's rekindled obsession with glamour, defined as magical, sensual, and theatrical, in chapters on Philip Johnson, Richard Neutra's Kaufmann Desert House, Eero Saarinen's corporate architecture, Morris Lapidus's Miami Beach hotels, and, somewhat surprisingly, Frank Lloyd Wright's Temple Beth Sholom in Elkins Park, PA. References to equally representative designers, such as Marcel Breuer, Edward Stone, and Charles and Ray Eames, appear throughout the text. Friedman is an informed and fulsome guide to the era, articulating and placing its aesthetics within the contexts of earlier and later styles. Teeming with photos and reproductions of period magazine and corporate ads, this attractive work is printed on quality paper. VERDICT Seriousness sets in once past the dust jacket featuring Slim Aarons's Poolside Gossip. Useful to art, architecture, design, and cultural history students and scholars as both an overview and a criticism of specific buildings.—Russell T. Clement, Northwestern Univ. Lib., Evanston, IL
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300116540
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 6/29/2010
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 8.90 (w) x 11.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Alice T. Friedman is Grace Slack McNeil Professor of the History of American Art and director of the McNeil Program for Studies in American Art at Wellesley College.

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